05 May 2008

Could this be how Ivar the Boneless got his nickname?

It seems that the Vikings were not just raiders and great seafarers - archaeologists and scientists have revealed that they were also expert fishmongers trading cod across extraordinary distances across Europe, from the Norwegian Arctic to England and the Baltic.

Scientists have perfected a technique of analysing cod bones which was originally developed to track modern fish stocks. It analyses collagen, which carries chemical traces of the water the fish originally swam in. Applied to bones from archaeological sites, it is beginning to show a picture of fish transported remarkable distances from AD950 on, when the quantity of bones shows a huge rise in consumption.

The team, led by archaeologists at Cambridge University, say that when fish were chopped up for processing, matching the results from fish bones and heads shows that in some cases they are separated by thousands of miles. The research, reported in this month's Journal of Archaeological Science, also shows the 1,000-year-old origins of the modern problem of declining fish stocks, as fishing grounds had to supply far more than a local market. The emergence of commercial fishing "may represent the point at which people started to have an impact on marine ecoystems," said James Barrett, of Cambridge University's archaeology department.

More fascinating stuff. It does raise a question in my mind. Could Ivar’s nickname boneless be a testament to his fish filleting rather skills after all....


Nunyaa said...

How fascinating, I would be curious to see these old bones, and how they have stood up to the test of time.

jams o donnell said...

They certainly are resilient Nunyaa!